Andrea Norris has led the community in creating model sustainable events. She has volunteered with the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition since 2009 and was Waste Prevention Action Team leader from 2009–2016. Andrea was the recipient of the 2016 Benton County Environmental Award.
Andrea, what in your background led you to be interested in volunteering with the Sustainability Coalition?
I think I always had an inclination to care about environmental issues growing up. Some of this was probably instilled in me just due to the culture of the Portland area, but I suspect one large factor was my love for animals. I was the kid who played with animal toys, pretended to be animals, read about animals, and wanted to take care of and “save the animals.” It wasn’t until college that I really got involved in environmental action beyond doing the small, everyday things in my personal life. This happened when I got involved in student government and learned about how to organize for change and was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had a knack for the work. The Coalition was formed near the end of my degree program so I plugged myself in as a natural next step for my involvement.
When and why did you decide to volunteer with the Waste Prevention Action Team?
I got involved with the Waste Prevention Action Team when it originally formed in early 2009. I was involved in environmental activism and education when I was an undergrad at OSU, and the Sustainability Action Plan was being developed by the community as I was finishing my degree. It only seemed logical for me to stay involved after graduating, given I was staying in Corvallis. It allowed me to share the organizing skills I was developing and continue the work that is important to me. I chose the Waste Prevention team because I had just started my job at OSU Campus Recycling and figured I would be able to develop in and make connections between my volunteer and paid work.
What do you feel is the impact of your volunteer work on the community?
My hope is that through the Recycling Block Captain handouts distributed to our community, I have inspired people to take their next steps toward waste reduction, reuse, and recycling. I would guess that, in most cases, we are especially reaching those who have some level of interest and just need that extra nudge or info to act. And this is important. But I also hope I am reaching folks who are barely participating, and getting them rolling in small ways that can build up to more extensive actions. I also hope that through the time I spent as an action team leader (2009-2016) I made an impact by helping keep our team and its various projects on track so we could accomplish more.
What are the goals you most want to accomplish in your volunteer work?
I think my top goals are related to my ethic and personal development. I want to make a meaningful contribution to educating and engaging Corvallis folks in waste prevention. And I want to both practice and challenge my skill set related to design and communications.
Is there a special project or event that comes to mind when you think of your work with the Coalition?
The Recycling Block Captain program, which is the project I have spent the most time on and led for six years. This is a project in which Corvallis residents volunteer to distribute waste prevention info to their neighbors a few times per year. Another group of volunteers creates the handouts together, for which I do the design work.
What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your work with the Coalition?
For one, working with people who share my interests and share in the work…I need this to keep me energized. I also feel this work is something that keeps me moving in life. As I pondered these interview questions, I asked myself why I do this work and what my life would be like if I did not. The answer is that working toward positive change is at the core of what I want to do with my life and the legacy I want to leave. This is some deep stuff!
Thank you, Andrea, for your many contributions to the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition and to the community!
For more details about Andrea’s exemplary accomplishments, read the narrative from her nomination for the Benton County Environmental Award.
Volunteer Spotlight recognizes the contributions of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition’s longstanding volunteer leaders. There are many ways you can help. Learn more about our projects and events, see our current volunteer opportunities and sign up to volunteer!